If you would prefer to have your child undergo an evaluation rather than take a standardized test (if your state has a provision for that option), it is best to choose your evaluator at the beginning of your school year. Of course, it's not unusual for homeschooling moms and dads to wait until the last minute to arrange evaluations, either! However, evaluators have different evaluation styles and expectations and knowing what your evaluator would like you to keep in your child's portfolio in advance will alleviate a tremendous amount of stress when it comes time for the evaluation.
Finding an evaluator who understands your philosophy on education is important--especially if you are an unschooler. We strongly encourage you to shop around. Ask other homeschoolers in your area who they recommend. Most importantly, do your homework. Check your state's laws to find out what your record keeping requirements are and what qualifications your evaluator must have (Florida homeschoolers, click here to learn about Florida evaluations and record keeping.) Schedule interviews (they can be by phone or in person) and don't hesitate to ask a lot of questions and ask for references. You'll want to be sure the evaluator meets your family's needs, supports your teaching style, and that your child will feel comfortable during the interview.
Besides the evaluator's qualifications, evaluation method, and portfolio requirements, you may also want to consider where the evaluation will take place and how much it will cost. And you may want to see a sample (or get a general idea) of the letter/report that will be given to the district school superintendent, especially if you live in a state that allows evaluators to prepare transcripts. You may also be interested in knowing whether the evaluator offers any other services like curriculum counseling or tutoring.